The Corner

What $20 Billion Offer?

It has been widely reported that Democrats — specifically the White House — are “preparing” to offer an additional $20 billion in spending cuts as part of a continuing resolution for the remainder of the fiscal year. That would be on top of the $10 billion that has already been cut as the result of two short-term resolutions, and would bring the total amount of cuts roughly in line with House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s original figure of $32 billion, and about half of the $61 billion in cuts contained in H.R. 1, the long-term spending bill passed by the House last month.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) touted this as evidence that the White House is actively engaged in the budget talks, and suggested that Republicans won’t accept the offer because they are “stuck on H.R. 1″ and “cannot agree with themselves.” He referred to the $20 billion offer as a “starting point to discuss,” and insisted there has been “no response” from the GOP.

But senior Republican aides tell NRO that they still haven’t seen this alleged offer from the White House. Even assuming the offer is legitimate, some are skeptical of what it might contain in terms of cuts. Republicans want real spending cuts out of the discretionary portion of the budget, but the Democrats’ most recent offer included a sizable chunk of “savings” from mandatory programs. Also, the Democrats’ refusal to accept any of the policy riders from H.R. 1 could be yet another sticking point in negotiations.

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) tells reporters that the latest Democratic offer for a long-term CR is “$70 billion” in spending cuts. He presumably arrives at that figure by taking the $40 billion “cut” by failing to enact President Obama’s 2011 budget, plus the $10 billion cut by the recently-passed short-term resolutions and now this additional $20 billion. In reality, it would constitute a spending cut of about $30 billion.

“That’s our number,” Reid said, adding that the cuts “don’t all come from the discretionary side,” but giving no further details. He characterized the alleged $20 billion offer as “extremely good” and that in putting it forward Democrats were meeting Republicans “far more than half way.”

Reid argued it was now up to Republicans to make the next move, but question whether they are prepared to do so. “What are [Republicans] afraid of?” he asked rhetorically. “They are afraid to tell the extreme* Tea Party members of the caucus that they are trying to find common ground with Democrats. Is that so embarrassing?”

* Somewhere, Chuck Schumer is smiling.

Reid continued to follow Schumer’s script by attempting to drive a wedge between GOP leadership and the Tea Party. “Speaker Boehner has two choices,” he said. “Anger the Tea Party base or shut down the government.”

Earlier this afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) ducked a question as to whether a $20 billion offer would be acceptable to Republicans, saying only: “We want to reach an agreement for this year. I think there’s widespread agreement on that.”

Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) when asked about the $20 billion offer, replied: “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

UPDATE II: House Republicans leaders issued a firm rebuttal to Senate Democrats at a press conference this afternoon, calling on them to pass a bill before negotiations over a long-term deal can go forward. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) pointed out that 38 days have passed since the House passed it’s version of a spending resolution to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year (September 30), and in that time period the Senate has failed to act. Furthermore, Boehner said, Democrats are ultimately responsible for the current predicament because they failed to pass a budget for 2011. “They created this mess because they failed to do a budget, they failed to do appropriations bills, and it’s time to for the Senate to move a bill so that we can sit down and begin negotiations,” Boehner said. “We’ve done our work. Instead of messaging and marching orders, maybe what they should do is get to work and actually pass a plan.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) called out Senate Democratic leaders for “playing political games” and for not approaching the debate in a serious fashion. “The American people don’t understand why it seems that Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and the rest feel like it’s important to defend every dollar and cent of total spending,” he said. “Chuck Schumer is intent on playing political games. When he decides to tell his caucus to depict Republicans in the House as not serious and to depict every spending cut as being nonsensical, that is the thing that’s not serious.”

Cantor said it was clear that Reid, Schumer, et al. have to decided to not to support any efforts to cut spending, and challenged them to put forward an alternative plan to reduce the deficit. “You either cut spending or you raise taxes,” he said. “Where is Harry Reid’s plan to raise taxes?”

Asked about the Democrats’ alleged $20 billion offer, Boehner said: “There are a lot of numbers that have been thrown around; the face is there is not an agreement on a number.”

“Nothing can be agreed to until everything is agreed to,” he continued. ‘It’s not just cutting spending; there are a number of limitations that passed the floor of the House,” presumably referring to policy riders attached to H.R. 1 (defunding of the EPA, Planned Parenthood, etc.).

Following the conference, GOP aides reiterated that Republicans have yet to see a specific proposal from Democrats.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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